SEASON PREVIEW: Revamped Spartans Set To Open 2019 Season Friday At JMU




Norfolk State Sports Information


NORFOLK, Va. – Last season was one of transition for the NSU baseball program. Originally hired as an assistant coach in August 2017, Keith Shumate took over as the Spartans’ head man in October of that year – some three months before the season began – after the fall departure of Claudell Clark. Shumate and the Spartans overcame many obstacles, including a number of injuries to their retooled roster, in a 2018 campaign that got off to a slow start.

But NSU rallied to play .500 baseball over the season’s final two months, finishing second in the MEAC Northern Division with a 13-10 mark. NSU notched wins over the likes of Jackson State, Bethune-Cookman, Longwood and North Carolina Central along the way.

With several key bats returning to the top half of NSU’s lineup, a number of reliable arms on the mound and an influx of new talent, Shumate and the Spartans have a much different feel and look about them heading into this season than they did at this time last year. Here is a rundown of the Spartans heading into the 2019 campaign, which opens this weekend at James Madison. The teams will now play a doubleheader beginning at 2 p.m. Friday and will not play Saturday as originally scheduled due to the forecast of inclement weather. Sunday’s 1 p.m. game is still scheduled as of mid-day Thursday.

The Spartans figure to be much deeper in the infield than they were last season, when injuries left the infield roster short on depth. Back as mainstays for NSU are junior Stephen Baughan and sophomore Alsander Womack. Baughan, who alternated between first base and designated hitter last season, hit a program Division I single-season record nine homers in 2018, which led the MEAC. Womack hit .314 with a team-high 31 RBI, 13 doubles and five homers as a freshman last season, earning four MEAC Rookie of the Week awards while manning second base.

Junior college transfer Korey Singh, who hit eight homers as a freshman at Patrick Henry Community College last year, is a key newcomer to watch. He is another candidate to see time at DH or first.

On the left side of the infield, redshirt sophomore Adam Collins returns to the fold after missing the 2018 season due to injury. Collins started 18 games as a freshman in 2017 and showed promise with the glove and bat. Junior college transfer Brandon Crosby, an NJCAA All-American as a freshman, will see action at third base and brings speed and pop to the lineup.

Junior Mikey Delgado started 22 games last season, primarily at shortstop, but can play multiple infield positions. Jaran Davis, who played in just two games before missing the rest of 2018 with injury, and freshman Trent Hanchey are two other versatile players who can provide flexibility for Shumate.

The Spartans will be anchored in the outfield by the return of redshirt senior Justin Hayes. Hayes made a huge impact on the Spartan lineup in his first season in the green and gold last year, earning first-team All-MEAC honors after batting .347 and stealing a MEAC-high 28 bases as NSU’s lead-off man. He was also appointed team captain in the fall and carries a leadership role off the field as well as on it.

Sophomore Khie Simms is the only other returning outfielder who saw action last season. He started 30 games and hit one homer with nine RBI while displaying a strong throwing arm in the outfield. Redshirt freshman Miguel Cameron also returns to the club after sitting out the 2018 season in his first year in the program.

Transfers and freshmen may also figure prominently into the outfield rotation. University of Richmond transfer Caleb Ward will likely see time in the outfield. An Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team pick as a freshman at UR, Ward brings a solid middle-of-the-order bat to the lineup and will also be a factor out of the NSU bullpen. Mason Velasquez, a transfer from nearby Bryant & Stratton junior college, adds another strong lefty bat to the lineup. He and Ward can both occupy the corner outfield positions.

Freshman Dionte Brown, a product of Smithfield High, may be one of the fastest players on the squad. Shumate calls him an exciting player with lots of promise. James Deloatch, who may also see time on the mound, is another newcomer with the ability to man an outfield position, and Davis could also see time in the outfield as well.

The Spartans will have a new backstop this season as primary starter Ismael Herrera graduated. Despite the Spartans’ lack of experience behind the plate, Shumate has several options and flexibility at his disposal.

Sophomore Kam Holland, who also missed all of 2018, returns and acquitted himself well in fall ball. At 6-2, 225 pounds, Holland gives NSU a big target behind the plate. Freshman Ty Hanchey – twin brother of infield Trent and younger brother of pitcher Trey – was a highly regarded prep catcher at nearby Granby High who has a strong arm and a solid lefty bat. Fellow freshman Nick Wimmers is another option behind the dish who has a strong frame (6-3, 200) for the college game.

NSU has seven players back who logged innings on the mound in 2018. Leading the way are two right-handed seniors who anchored the rotation last year in Chase Anderson and Jonathan Mahoney. Anderson pitched 98 innings (No. 1 in MEAC) and Mahoney 87.1 (No. 3) and both recorded seven victories to rank tied for second among MEAC pitchers. They again figure to occupy two-thirds of NSU’s weekend rotation.

A third senior righty, Trey Hanchey, is also back after in the mix. He started 11 games and appeared out of the bullpen twice last year, pitching 60.2 innings. He gives Shumate a veteran who has the ability to pitch out of the bullpen or start.

Other spots in the rotation could be filled by any number of players. Junior college left hander Ridge Walker has impressed coaches and will likely fill a starting role. He fanned 68 in just 45 innings pitched as a JC sophomore. Another junior college lefty, Kevin Alicea, will also compete for starts on the mound. He struck out a batter per inning as a sophomore at Rainy River Community College in Minnesota last season.

The Spartans also have several experienced arms returning out of the bullpen. Right handed sidearmer Seth Hockett made a team-high 24 appearances as a freshman last season and posted a 3.98 ERA. Junior lefty Tyler Morgan made 14 appearances spanning 36 innings and can be especially tough on lefties. Junior Quenten Thomas is also back. He was limited to four appearances last year, but when healthy, is a hard-throwing righty with experience.

All told, the Spartans will have seven left handed pitchers on their pitching staff this year. Tyrin Everette, who missed 2018 due to injury, is another name to watch. Freshmen Deloatch and Mike Pyers in addition to junior Jalen Rudolph are also options.

Ward, freshmen Justin Walton and Micah Smith and sophomore Scott Mahoney are right handers who will also factor into the team’s plans in 2019, giving Shumate the depth and versatility the staff lacked at times in 2018.

The Spartans have 25 home games scheduled in 2019. NSU begins the year with a weekend road series this week at JMU and a non-conference mid-week game at North Carolina Central before playing the next four weekends at home. Other non-conference home series include matchups with NJIT, Quinnipiac and Savannah State before MEAC play begins in mid-March at home against Delaware State.

The MEAC will now play a more traditional Friday-Saturday-Sunday three-game weekend series format for conference play in 2019. Typical start times are 3 p.m. on Fridays, 2 p.m. on Saturdays and 1 p.m. on Sundays, with the exception of Easter weekend.

NSU also has mid-week games against Richmond, Old Dominion, Longwood, VCU and Virginia on its 2019 slate.

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